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What Is a Style Consultant?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Every major social event seems to bring out a stream of men and women who are immaculately dressed and stylishly coiffed, attracting envy and interest in magazines and the news. Average individuals may look at photos from the red carpet and wonder how the stars pull off flawless outfits again and again. The secret is a style consultant, a professional who specializes in personal image, and using a style consultant is not limited to the rich and famous. Many style consultants are available for consultations with all sorts of clients, from high-powered movie stars who need help dressing for the Oscars to up and coming executives who want to look a cut above the competition.

Style consultants typically have extensive training in fashion and style, and they are knowledgeable about designers, styles, and trends. They may also study some psychology, and they excel at creating a polished, professional personal image which manages to capture the unique characteristics of the individual. Style consultants provide advice about what to wear, which hairstyle would be most flattering, and how to do makeup. They may also offer more general tips designed to promote a positive personal image, ranging from what car to drive to how to entertain at a cocktail party.

Working with a style consultant usually starts with a meeting where the consultant and the client get to know each other. The client can talk about the issues he or she wants to address, while the consultant can make notes about the client's figure, personality, and field of employment, using this information to provide suggestions which could improve the client's personal image.

Many style consultants go shopping with their clients, helping them pick out clothing and accessories which will be appropriate. They usually try to help their clients build large and diverse wardrobes, teaching their clients about what to wear in which situations, and providing advice about colors, coordination, cuts, and so forth so that clients can select appropriate clothes and accessories.

Sometimes, a style consultant fails, as evidenced by the “best and worst” coverage which appears in popular magazines after major events. A gown which seems like a good idea in the store might not work on the red carpet, or an elegant dress might be worn with a clashing hairstyle, or poorly-chosen accessories. Style consultants may also conflict with their clients over the image the client is trying to project, and occasionally client rebellion results in a fashion disaster.

What Does a Style Consultant Do?

A style consultant helps people determine the type of clothing that works best for them and decide which pieces suit their lifestyle best. If you are starting a new career, entering a new phase in life, or are curious about what type of clothes fit you best, a style consultant can help. Also, if you are going to a special event, a consultant can help you figure out what to wear.

A style consultant can either come to your home or help you online via video chat or email. To get started, the client fills out a questionnaire. It assists the consultant with getting a feeling for what their clients' style issues are and what they expect from the consultant. A consultant will take into account:

  • Budget
  • Clothing use
  • Personal style
  • Body type
  • Body shape

Sometimes, a consultant can also perform the role of a personal shopper. You will have a consultation with them and determine what look you want. Next, they will either shop online or in person for you. If you choose to buy your clothes, they can offer suggestions about your best clothing choices.

If you work for a company, you might pick out clothes based on a profile the client has created. After determining which clothes suit their style best, they send the clothes to the customer. Some customers may choose to come to the store where you work. In those cases, you will pick out clothes for the person in question during a styling session.

How To Become a Style Consultant

There are several ways to become a style consultant. There is no formal training required, but some may choose to get a certification from a recognized group. There are also certificates from colleges that you can complete. In class, you will learn about colors, fabric types, body types, and how to create an outfit. If you want to get a four-year degree, many stylists study fashion. Many of these certificates and degrees are online, so you do not have to worry about fitting classes into your schedule.

A certification is an excellent way to showcase your knowledge and make your clients feel more at ease with you. However, this is not the only way to show what you know. If you have an eye for style, you can start styling yourself, your friends, and your family to get an idea of what it's like to choose clothes for others. While having a solid understanding of your style is essential, styling others is different.

You can choose to create a website and get your clients. Blogging about fashion is a popular way to get clients and connect with others. It is also a great way to practice and show your daily outfits. You can also offer tips, guides, and tricks to look your best. If your blog is valuable to a client, they will be more inclined to buy your services when they need them.

You may want to showcase previous outfits you have created for various people. A social media account that you use regularly is necessary. It can be a great way to connect with clients and show happy customers you've styled.

No matter how you choose to become a style consultant, there are some basics you need to know. These include:

  • Color theory
  • How to style accessories
  • How to layer clothing
  • What clothes look best on different body types
  • Items to wear for each season
  • Basics you need every day

These are just some things you need to know to become a well-rounded consultant.

How Much Does a Style Consultant Cost?

The cost of a style consultant varies. Expertise and popularity sometimes dictate how much a stylist will cost you. The more well-known they are, the more their services will be. Some style consultants charge on a package basis, while others charge hourly. The average style consultant costs $50 to $500 an hour. Packages can range from $500 to $1000, depending on what services you are receiving. If you choose a prominent independent stylist, the cost may be higher.

The price of a consultant also depends on why you want to use them. If you need them to choose an outfit for an event or meeting, it typically will not cost as much as a complete wardrobe overhaul. If you decide to get styling services from a larger company, like a department store, sometimes their services are free depending on what you are buying. However, an independent style consultant will have more time to get to know you, your style, and what you hope to achieve with your new wardrobe.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By VivAnne — On Jul 06, 2011

@SauteePan - Wow, I'm not sure I would go for an online style consultant. Most of their job is to look at you and your body type and your lifestyle and to advise you on what clothing, hairstyle and makeup would be best for you.

How can they do most of that through a webcam image that might not be the best quality? If you're sitting at a computer, they can't even see your body shape, or how you walk!

Not only that, but many people will feel under extra scrutiny when talking to a fashion-savvy person. They may lie about things like their weight, measurements, or standing in society to try and look better than they view themselves as being.

This will throw the poor style consultant off, and the results aren't likely to be good!

By seHiro — On Jul 06, 2011

@SkittisH - I think perhaps the biggest help in style consultancy is that a style consultant will force you as their client to look at the world through new eyes. Whether they'll admit it or not, unless they're into fashion, most people only shop for clothes at one or two stores they're familiar with.

That severely limits their selection of clothing, and then their body type and the type of look they tend to like limits their selections even more, until they predictably wear the exact same kind of outfit constantly.

Style consulting isn't just for people who think they look bad the way they are, but also for people who feel stuck in a rut about their fashion sense, and want to make a change to like themselves better but don't know how to change.

Style consulting is particularly good for older men and women who start to panic when their old familiar styles don't work with their new gray hair, older features, and new expectations of their roles in society. For example, an elderly woman is not expected to wear provocative or figure-enhancing clothing like a woman of marrying age.

I know saying it like that makes the practices sound archaic, but it's true, isn't it? We simply don't see very many grandmas in slinky dresses.

By SkittisH — On Jul 05, 2011

@GreenWeaver - I don't know, I think a fashion consultant might help you accept your weight and maybe even learn to view it as attractive. The article says that style consultants can go so far as to tell their clients how to behave at social functions and what car to drive, so why not something more relevant to their jobs -- your actual body?

I'm sure that a good number of people go to style consultants when they have body image issues, because they want to make a big enough change that they can "look like a new person". In those cases, it's the style consultant's job to give them enough of a makeover and a polishing that they look in the mirror and like what they see.

I think that's very applicable to people who are overweight; I mean, you said yourself that you didn't realize that wearing oversized clothing was making your appearance worse, right? What if somebody with bad body image really just needs clothing that flatters their figure?

For that matter, if you are overweight and know nothing about fashion, you might not be aware that larger prints make overweight people look bigger, too. A style consultant could probably do wonders for that person's body image by changing their wardrobe.

By TheGraham — On Jul 05, 2011

@JessiC - I think it's interesting that the topic came up that Lady Gaga might be using style consulting. If you trust the hype and headlines (which I do not), LadyGaga designs her fashions herself, or at least comes up with the concepts.

I tend to believe that her decisions probably go as far as deciding that "this one should be made of meat" or "that one should be made of bubbles" and that her style consultant, stylist and fashion designer team all come up with her wardrobe.

See, Lady gaga is praised by the high fashion community as being a trendsetter, but I just read a news article the other day about somebody's dress being designed by the same designer who designs Lady Gaga's clothing, so I know it's not all her.

I'd imagine being a style consultant is kind of like being a movie director. That is, if the movie fails the director gets blamed. if the movie is successful, people tend to praise the actors. With fashion, that equals the wearer of the clothes getting praised, but the style consultant taking the fall for fashion flops.

By GreenWeaver — On Jul 04, 2011

@Cupcake15 - I agree that there are aspects of a stylist’s job that is not as easy as it sounds. I am overweight and I hate shopping for clothes because I used to be thin and now I am not and it is hard to find something that looks decent on me.

I think that the challenge for me is either losing weight or accepting the additional weight that I put on. This is something that a stylist would not help me with and I wonder how many of their clients have issues like this.

It is easy to find stylish clothes for a very thin Hollywood actress, but it is different when the client is overweight and has body image issues. Being a fashion stylist involves a little psychology along with strong fashion sense because not everyone is happy with the way they look and this has nothing really to do with the clothes.

A smart stylist will uncover this issue from the beginning and hopefully be able to address it successfully. I have learned through a style consultation on television that one mistake overweight people like myself make is wearing oversized clothing.

This actually makes you look bigger which goes against what I always thought because I always try to hide behind the clothing and now I realize what a mistake it really is.

By cupcake15 — On Jul 04, 2011

@SauteePan -I think that personal style consulting would be a really fun job. Being a fashion stylist allows you to recreate someone’s wardrobe into a really flattering look. I know that the style consultation could be lengthy and not all clients go through the entire style consultation because it is expensive.

There is the initial consultation along with the elimination of the previous wardrobe. I would think that this step is probably the most difficult because although the client may want a change for the better, they still might want to hold on to some of their older wardrobe pieces. If they keep some of their older wardrobe pieces the style consultant runs the risk of hurting their reputation because a client might wear some of the older pieces that don't work for the client and may say that a certain stylist dressed them and people that don’t know the stylist might think that the stylist is not very good.

I think once you get through the old wardrobe purging stage, the rest should be easy. Buying new clothes is always fun, and trying on the various combinations is even more fun.

By SauteePan — On Jul 03, 2011

@Animegal - I was reading that many style consultations can be held online in a virtual setting for about $100, while in person consultations start at about $350 for the initial consultation.

Many wardrobe consultants work with fortune 500 companies and offer business advice such as how to draft the perfect business email, and how to approach a job interview. This one style image consultant that I was reading about also takes virtual consultations through Skype which makes it easier if you have a busy schedule.

It is not just Hollywood stars that use image consultants according to this one wardrobe consultant many of her clients are doctors and lawyers that also want to look their best in and out of work.

By animegal — On Jul 03, 2011

Has anyone ever had the chance to work with a style consultant? Did you find it a fun experience or was it stressful to work with someone who was changing your look?

I have always wondered what it would be like to have someone work with you to find the best clothes. I think it would be enjoyable but also a bit intimidating if you didn't know much about fashion to start with.

Also, does anyone know how much it would cost to hire a style consultant, say for a single event?

I would love to try one for a party or another big event, without having to commit to an entire wardrobe change.

By manykitties2 — On Jul 02, 2011

One of the best ways to see a style consultant at work if you are curious is to tune into one of the numerous makeover shows that are on television. There are usually a good number of people that are involved in the makeover, but a style consultant is key to choosing the best wardrobe for the person.

When you watch a style consultant shop you can learn a lot about making your money stretch and finding ways to make numerous outfits out of a few pieces. I think some of the most fun challenges to watch for style consultants are when they are put on a strict budget. It just goes to show that you don't need to be rich to have good style.

By Engelbert — On Jul 01, 2011

@redstaR - There’s a few fashion consultants who have gone on to become media personalities themselves, some notable examples including Stacy London and Tim Gunn who both have their own TV shows.

Speaking of Lady Gaga, Stacy London once said she “didn’t get” Lady Gaga’s style - she’s not alone either, I must admit I don’t really “get it” either. I appreciate the creativity and artistry which goes into her garments but they seem more like works of art or high fashion as opposed to something that actually looks good to wear. Maybe I’m getting old.

I’m sure everybody remembers Queer Eye For The Straight Guy also.

By redstaR — On Jul 01, 2011

Does anyone know of any famous fashion consultants and who they’ve worked with or is it something they keep secret so as to give the impression that the person they provide consultation for just happens to have a good sense of style?

By hidingplace — On Jun 30, 2011

@JessiC - I think it's possible that there'd be a lot of crossover between public relations managers and style consultants. Like you said in regard to Lady Gaga, it seems like her image does have a lot more to do with making a statement as opposed to wearing practical or stylish clothes.

I'm also interested to know how much she has to do with the clothes she wears and how much of it is directed by (I imagine) a team of style consultants or public relations managers. If it's more of the latter, you could argue that her fame is more as a result of a collective effort of people hired by her record label as opposed to her own hard work and consideration of what she’s going to wear. I guess I don't really know enough about her to know either way but I’d be interested to know.

I guess you have to wonder if she’d be as famous as she is if it wasn’t for her provocative style of dress and she was judged solely on the quality of her music. It just goes to show how important image is.

By blackDagger — On Jun 29, 2011

I think it is so sad for fashion consultants when they take the fall for a ‘worst’ outfit in fashion magazines. It seems there is always someone hanging around ready to ridicule every single move that these folks make when their clients hit the red carpet.

I will admit that I have an untrained eye, but I will definitely say that there are many times when I see these worst and best dressed lists that I wonder if the fashion critic needs a different glasses prescription.

Really! Are they seeing the same things that I am seeing? It would appear that being stylish is not always exactly flattering, if that is the case.

By JessiC — On Jun 29, 2011

I can’t help but wonder if Lady Gaga has a fashion consultant or not. It seems like she is more into ‘shocking’ clothes rather than actually stylish clothes.

And, it’s safe to say that she isn’t the only celebrity who is more out to make a headline than a good impression. Madonna is notorious for it (remember the pointy bra).

Do these people really have a style consultant or just a really good public relations manager? Many claim that a celebrity's style is where they reinvent themselves in many cases to keep from being forgotten over time.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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